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WATCH: Abington Health Highlights on Getting Pregnant After 35

Viewers asked questions live and received great advice on fertility, assistance methods, and the risks and benefits of getting pregnant after 35 during the last Abington Health live chat on May 4. The chat was with Dr. Mara Thur, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Abington Hospital. Lu Ann Cahn director of Career Services at Temple University’s School of Media and Communications moderated the chat. In case you missed it, here are the highlights from the health chat.

What are some things you should do before you even start trying to get pregnant?

“I think generally you want to lead a healthy lifestyle, just like you would with anything else,” Dr. Thur said. “You want to make sure that you optimize your weight, that you’re eating a healthy diet, and most importantly you think about things like folic acid.”

She usually recommends that women who want to get pregnant take a multi-vitamin or a prenatal (remove link to prenatal testing/doesn’t make sense)vitamin for at least 3 months before trying to get pregnant. Folic acid is important because it helps prevent neural tube defects in the baby.

Does stress affect fertility?

“It’s interesting,” Dr. Thur said, “There have been a lot of studies that look at this and sort of anecdotally even think so, if you live a very stressful life you release a lot of a hormone called cortisol, and maybe it decreases your fertility.” However, it’s difficult to determine whether or not it is true.

“It’s kind of a question mark if stress really does affect fertility,” Dr. Thur said. Some people think it does and some people think it does not.

What are some options for people who are having trouble getting pregnant?

If someone is having trouble getting pregnant, Dr. Thur always starts out with a complete history of a patient, including past pregnancies and what the partner’s pregnancy history is. Then, the patient gets blood work done to make sure things are normal. Once it is established that everything is working, she recommends that the partner get a semen analysis.

“When you’re talking about infertility, about 40 percent of the time it’s a problem with a man, about 40 percent of the time it’s a problem with the woman, and about 20 percent of the time it’s an issue with both,” Dr. Thur said.

Once all of that testing has been done, the next step is to give oral medication that will help ovulation. If there are no results after about three cycles of medication, Dr. Thur will refer the patient to a fertility specialist.

What does a fertility specialist offer?

Fertility doctors will often repeat blood work and use oral medicines too.  “The advantage that the fertility specialists have is they have ultra sounds at their disposal, they’re laboratory is usually very accessible, and they’re able to monitor patients a little more closely,” Dr. Thur said. Fertility specialists also offer many assisted reproductive technologies such as injectable medicine, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization.

What are the risks of having a baby later in life?

For the mother, the risks of having later pregnancies include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and issues with the placenta. These are all monitored in older moms. Doctors will often do additional ultra sounds to monitor growth because the placenta doesn’t function as well. There is also an increased risk of genetic abnormalities in the child.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Normally doctors would check for this between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. About 15 percent of women who have gestational diabetes will go on to have diabetes when they are not pregnant anymore.

What are the most important takeaways for women who are trying to get pregnant later in life?

“I think that your approach to getting pregnant should be the same as if you were younger it’s just your proverbial biological clock is ticking,” Dr. Thur said. She would recommend that people don’t wait too long to see their OB/GYN so they can start the process earlier.

“Once they are pregnant, just being aware of what’s offered in terms of testing and things like that to ensure that the pregnancy is healthy [is best],” Dr. Thur said.

For more information on the resources available to expecting parents, visit Abington Health’s maternity page here.